Here are some rather easy things anyone can do. You’re probably doing a few of them already. And just because things are the way they are now, doesn’t mean they have to stay that way.
1. Byo bags for groceries
Made from ethylene, a by-product of petroleum or natural gas, plastic bags are unnecessary and wasteful. Many stores still don’t charge for plastic bags, giving them out like it’s nothing. Plastic bags clog up drains and landfills. Even worse, they end up in the sea where dolphins end up playing with them and suffocating. Buy a reusable cloth bag and take it with you every time you shop. Skip the plastic bags for products too.
2. Buy organic when possible
Conventional farming methods, which rely heavily on pesticide use, pollute and damage soils, waterways and ecosystems. Pesticides can have both acute effects and chronic adverse effects on the health of workers and their families, months or years after exposure.
In contrast, organic agriculture relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions. When you buy organic, you’re supporting the health of soils, ecosystems and people, and promoting a more sustainable environment. Going fully organic is not an option for everyone, but perhaps it can be some of the time.
3. Eat less meat
The meat industry generates more man-made greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation industry. Meat production is one of the most environmentally destructive industries on the planet. It is responsible for excessive water use, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and habitat destruction.
By eating less meat, you’re doing one of the easiest and most effective things to combat climate change. Start with one meat-free day a week, and when you realise you’re not withering away from fatigue, go on to two or more. Reducing your meat consumption can reduce your environmental footprint.
4. BYO coffee cups
Sure we’re all fiends for a good ‘cup of joe’ but in New Zealand, we bin 1.7 million disposable coffee cups a day. That is, quite frankly, insane!
Get yourself a reusable cup. There are some pretty good looking ones out there. Keep it in your bag, at home or at work, and BYO everywhere you go. Some cafes even give you a discount if you have one.
5. Ditch the plastic bottled water
Water has to be pumped out of the ground, packaged, transported and chilled before it gets to a fridge near you. What this creates is tons of greenhouse gases. Invest in a water filter and get yourself a water bottle and take it everywhere with you. You don’t even need to buy a fancy one, reuse a glass bottle. Why waste your money on bottled water when you could just filter your own water?
6. Don’t waste food
It is estimated that each year globally, approximately one third of all food produced for human consumption in the world goes to waste. This represents a missed opportunity for improving food security, and presents an opportunity for mitigating the environmental impact of this food production.
Natural resources used for growing, processing, packaging, transporting this wasted food produce an estimated 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent. Food wastage ranks as the third top emitter of carbon emissions... food for thought.
Use up everything. Freeze old fruit to use in smoothies and when life gives you rotten bananas, make banana bread! Old veggies still taste great if they’re used in stir fries or roasted. Take leftovers for lunch. Plan your meals ahead, and remember it’s better to buy too little than too much.
7. Forget the plastic wrap
There are loads of other ways you can package your food, and plastic wrap doesn’t need to be one of them. Get yourself a BPA -free plastic container or reuse glass jars to take your lunches in. Most meals can fit in a jar - breakfast in a jar, salad in a jar... you get the point. Most health food stores have paper bags, which are a great alternative to plastic wrap.
8. Start a compost
Composting requires very little effort and resources, but the positive impact on the environment is huge. Modern waste management methods are less than ideal. Waste sits in landfill sites where the vital oxygen that is needed to facilitate the decaying process cannot reach it. What happens is that this landfill material releases greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Composting is the active breakdown of foods, like vegetable and fruit scraps, and other materials, like grass and plant clippings, through an organic process. What you end up with is nutrient dense compost that will boost your garden productivity big time. Don’t have a garden? Start one. That’s next on the list.
9. Grow your own vegetable garden
Try growing your own food, it’s not that hard. Plant some seeds in a corner of your yard or in a container on your porch or windowsill. Don’t really have a lot of space? Try sprouting seeds.
10. Commit to buying more sustainable clothing
There are figures that show that 100 million kilos of textile waste is thrown into rubbish dumps every year. That’s like every person in New Zealand throwing out about 145 medium-sized men’s T-shirts a year.